How to Kill Your Inner Demons Without Harming Yourself.
The kind of personal demons that defeated Kate Spade in her long-time battle with depression and anxiety are the driving force behind a worldwide epidemic.
They are much more commonplace than we realize.
We may not call them by their true names, but they are the same type of demons I’ve encountered when treating suicidal children as young as elementary school-age, and that everyone who’s battling depression and anxiety is, in some shape or form, struggling with.
They are the descendants of the demons that once plagued our ancestors, and still circle in the forgotten shadows of our personal and collective unconscious, like hawks, waiting for us to let our guard down.
When we’re burned out or overwhelmed by ever-growing demands, deadlines, illness, crisis, tragedy, big milestones, transitions, and unavoidable loss, or when the veil thins during our monthly cycles, they strike and enter through the cracks of our psyche, screeching for attention.
Do not despair. We’ve been losing the battle in fighting them, but they are far from invincible. We’ve been ineffective, because we’ve been unwittingly using the wrong tools for the job. Imagine using a hammer to pull out screws, or screwdrivers to pull out nails to escape out of a wooden prison you’ve been caged in for as long as you can remember.
A situation that may seem utterly hopeless can all of a sudden feel completely manageable by seeing the problem in a whole new light, and by using the right tools to solve it.
This may help with that. Think of a personal demon as an inner critic on the highest possible dosage of steroids. And what exactly is an inner critic, you ask?
The inner critic is an aspect of our fragmented ego-mind that got seduced by cultural perceptions of success, safety, achievement, or happiness based on game rules created by key players who are trying to monopolize ordinary reality –a shamanic term used to describe the material world that we, from birth on, explore, navigate, conceptualize and interpret through input gathered by our crude five senses.
The inner critic is hand-fed by these powerful gatekeepers and rule-makers who are on a mission to outsmart mystery and sustain a matrix of institutions that mostly benefit their particular interests. They do this through media messages, advertisements, indoctrinating traditions, and cultural stories that aim to brainwash us into trusting their versions of reality over our soul’s wisdom.
They get us hooked on and addicted to empty promises, cathartic bursts of emotion, social approval, and sensational but disconnected ways of being. They bank on our ego-mind’s logical propensity to see pain as the enemy, and fertilize these splits with regular jolts of fear, which makes sleepwalking through life’s challenges much more appealing.
Once they get our attention, they teach us how to gleefully and glamorously dismiss or medicate any and all pain signals that attempt to reconnect us back to our true power and innate knowing that something’s not quite right, and happily help us to forget that there is more to us and life than meets the eye.
This may come as a surprise, but our schooling often primes us to adopt this dominant view of reality because of the great importance that’s placed on empirical and rational data — the information about our world that’s gathered by our conceptual, concrete ego-mind, measured in tangible units that define reality and the real world.
Through benign neglect or outright denigration of more subtle, esoteric versions of reality, we get molded into adopting this version of reality as if it were some kind of untouchable gospel-truth.
Remember: just because modern, Westernized societies, like the US, and subcultures, like academia, value linear, physical reality, it doesn’t mean that we need to subscribe to this way of existing.
There are plenty of non-Western, metaphysical, Buddhist, Taoist, and more indigenous influences and belief systems within our midst that place greater emphasis on spiritual and circular notions of reality where there are no absolutes or separate dualities: where death leads to rebirth, darkness to light, the unseen to truth, suffering to the discovery of bliss, and vice versa.
Start your liberation by reclaiming your right to choose which kind of reality you would like to live by. Dismantling your personal demons requires that you fully unpack what you’ve been bottle-fed as the norm and realigning it with your highest self and good.
If we don’t make a conscious choice and continue to operate in our default mode, our hearts, bodies and souls will at one point or another start to signal to us that we can’t outsmart mystery. We can’t ignore our truth-bodies by treating them as unreliable pain-bodies because they will begin to protest with even more severe symptoms of dis-ease to alert, not badger, us.
While the pull to surrender to this inescapable pain and vulnerability gets stronger for our own good, we treat and judge these sensations as highly threatening and want to avoid them at all costs, often unaware that they hold the key to our divine, whole selves.
Our inner critic steps in and plays an even more active role in repressing the unacceptable parts of ourselves, using debilitating methods such as fear, manipulation, control, and harsh judgment to keep our unruly, bad, embarrassing and emotional selves in line.
It eventually succeeds by causing us to develop a strong sense of aversion and sometimes even self-loathing toward the direct portal to the divine within ourselves. As a result, we become terrified of surrendering to our own vulnerability, hurt and wounding: the direct result of all this cultural conditioning and being betrayed by loved ones who fell for it.
Talk about being in a double-bind… and kudos to Brené Brown and Judith Orloff for being so on point in spearheading their liberation movements by advocating for more vulnerability and surrendering.
The demonic aspects of the inner critic have to do with the seductive methods used to deliberately lure us away from our connection to our soul. We are often intentionally shamed and manipulated so that we experience and interpret our true selves and the socially marginalized and vulnerable parts of ourselves, from as early as kindergarten, as weak, painful, foolish, undesirable and powerless.
Trusted adults not only guided and role-modeled to us how to do this, but protected us from marginalized others who dangerously challenged these worldviews, widening the chasm and feeding ground of our collective demons even more.
With a quick sleight of hand, we were led to a misery-proof, promised land of victory, happiness, success, wealth, status, respect, safety, power, and no pain. All we needed to do was follow the intricate game-rules of the matrix upheld by our inner critics and demons that perpetually motivated us to keep striving for more by making sure we blamed ourselves if unable to achieve the illusion.
We must not be good enough if we’re not successful in achieving the dream.
Pain, the keeper of the truth, is repeatedly waved and spun in front of our eyes and noses in a negative, scary light as a reminder of where we don’t want to end up and what we need to run far far away from.
For instance, the inner critic may say, “Don’t try this new thing because you’ll embarrass yourself,” every time we step more into our power. At the foundational level is unacknowledged soul-wounding related to our self-worth being tied to some performance measure and polarized and skewed view of success.
The recent suicides of both Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain are the true reminders that it doesn’t really matter where we actually fall on this measuring stick. Our inner demons will make sure that they are distorted in such a manner that we feel agonizingly trapped in our prison of inferiority and demonic torture that the only out is suicide.
The widespread shock and surprise in response to these very unfortunate self-inflicted deaths indicate that most of us are still heavily invested into the mindset that there is a direct relationship between success, glamour, wealth, and happiness.
It’s hard to wrap our heads around this hard proof that those at the top of this highly idealized totem pole can still be very miserable and unfulfilled, perhaps even more so for having done everything within their power to reach success and happiness and still not finding it. Their hopelessness is palpable, and scares us into becoming even more susceptible to manipulation by our inner critics and demons.
What we need to do instead is drop a layer below this lose-lose mental matrix that by design will never serve our highest good. Mystery transcends the ego-mind’s crude portrayal of reality and all the artificial walls and structures we created to maintain control. The truth of the matter is whatever we resist within this polarized way of doing life persists, whether we like it or not.
If we neglect our wounding, it will just fester and function as a lure to all neglected and rejected entities and dark, free-floating psychic energy that we tried to escape from historically and now. Misery loves company, even in the spirit world.
The many suffering souls before us who committed suicide, our ancestors, our past-life selves, and the many other subgroups who have suffered at the atrocious and demonic hands of our other past-life selves and ancestors will huddle together for company.
We’ve got a lot of psychic waste to clear, recycle, heal and integrate, which can be done when we unravel the illusions from the inside out and bottom up when allowing pain to awaken rather than numb us.
The quicker we accept that there is no escaping truth and mysterious, higher spiritual order, the more quickly we’ll cut ourselves free from the power that our inner critics and demons have over us. And the better off we will all be when this is done, even those at the margins, because the gaps between us and them will close.
We have been fooled into believing that the walls we built around ourselves are successful in keeping all the bad people and feelings out. We fantasized being free from the scary, inexplicable, intense and painful reminders of our lives and psyches until we realized that we are tiptoeing within our own bodies and minds as if trying to avoid stepping on land mines.
We’ve become victims trapped by fear and aversion of our own true nature and self.
We are sitting ducks with signs that read Shoot me, enticing all free-roaming demons to push our buttons. From a non-dual perspective, nothing truly falls outside the realms of the sacred: even this, which we typically perceive as self-sabotage, is actually mystery helping us blow up this matrix and kill our inner demons and the power they have over us with profound, powerful, all-encompassing and pervasive love.
Mystery keeps having the last word and showing that the ultimate goal is to elevate and expand our consciousness, wholeness, and health, using whatever means necessary, without judgment or restraint.
It’s up to us to open our eyes more widely and embrace the evidence that surrendering our polarizing ego-mind to this larger field of wisdom will enhance the quality of our lives and lead us to peace and joy, not self-harm, even though habit will fool us into believing that we’re giving up and have been defeated.
Even if this would be the case, it’s the kind of defeat and ego-death that mystics and shamans intentionally schedule into their practice to remain aligned with bliss and love, and one to be celebrated for the good fortune that it brings along.
Deeply understanding this paradoxical nature of reality will lead us to the greatest triumph yet of our lifetimes by successfully submerging both our individual and collective inner demons and all the crumbling and fragile matrices into the vast field of infinite love and unshakable peace and truth.
Loraine Van Tuyl, PhD, CHT, is a holistic psychologist, Depth Hypnosis shamanic practitioner, dynamic speaker, WomanSpeak leader, and award-winning author of Amazon Wisdom Keeper: A Psychologist’s Memoir of Spiritual Awakening. She believes that the most effective way to heal and re-nature our denatured, patriarchal world is by excavating and supporting women’s deep wells of wisdom, bold dreams and game-changing missions. Her two-decade-long devotion to awakening fierce, wise women has led to the empowerment of hundreds of trailblazers in the fields of psychology, holistic health, academia, the arts, renewable energy, social justice, and entrepeneurship. Within the transformative framework of her signature Soul Sanctuary Alchemy self-healing model, she teaches them how to cultivate unwavering trust in their creative powers, clarity and intuitive ingenuity that’s honed by Gaia’s sacred seven directions and their own dream team of spirit guides. Her work has appeared in Elephant Journal, Rebelle Society, and Byrdie. She has presented multiple times at the UC Berkeley Counseling Center and Native American Health Center, and has been interviewed by the Amazon Conservation Team, Divine Insight, All Things Therapy, Conscious Talk, Good Vibrations, and more. You could contact her via her website.